Let’s take a step back into the world of superheroes and comic books. The action never stops, the color is vivid, and the epic battle of good versus evil rages on. This classic free to play 3D MMORPG boasts incredible cell-shaded graphics that take you to a place where capes and spandex uniforms are standard fare. With such a massive playerbase it is clear… this is where the champions of the world unite!
To Pay or Not To Pay
Developed by Cryptic Studios and published by both Atari and Cryptic Studios, Champions Online went open beta on August 16, 2009. Then on January 25, 2011 Champions Online has finally been released from its pay-to-play chains and is now a free-to-play. Well, almost. The basics are free. Many of the options are pay-to-play only. Many customizations and things like character slots and customization slots are limited to pay-to-play players. Occasionally, an online game with this setup will masquerade under the FTP title; only to lead its players on because it’s nothing more than a glorified demo. I’m pleased to say that Champions Online is the real deal. You won’t be missing out on much. In fact, most everything in Champion’s membership only version are things you would be required to purchase in any other MMOs item shop.
Super Character Creation
If your purpose in life is to blend in with the crowd, then you’re out of luck! When creating your superhero in Champions Online, the chances of your avatar having a stunt double is slim to none. The character creation process is flat out amazing. Look for just about anything that you, the player, would want to customize and it’s probably there.
In fact, the options are so vast that people are calling it “overwhelming” citing that the task of fabricating a superhero on Champions Online is actually quite daunting. I disagree. I absolutely love the fact that we finally have the chance to design an avatar that is, in the truest sense of the word, unique; a character that reflects your personality. So have fun, be creative and enjoy the opportunity to express yourself and genuinely create a character.
Silver and Gold
It’s hard to judge this MMO on the same scale that you would weigh others because of its pay-to-play alter ego. In most FTPMMOs the biggest issue in regards to fair gameplay lies within the cash shop. In this particular situation, the issue of fairness is directly related to its pay-to-play version. Gold members, which are the paying members, really have the advantage. In my opinion, if you’re not a competitive gamer (yeah right!) then you’ll do just fine. While the free-to-play Champions Online isn’t a demo, you lack the perks and advantages that a gold member possesses and thus, are placed at a disadvantage. The developers claim fairness… but the truth lies in the gameplay.
We’ve discussed character creation and have established that it’s pretty amazing. But try this on for size… As a FTP member (silver) you are only allowed to select from predetermined Archetypes. What does this mean? Well, as it stands, if you are a gold member, you retain the right to choose any powers or abilities that you desire for any and all of your characters. So, while a FTP gamer can have an awesome time creating their character, the fun stops there. Not to mention as a gold member you enjoy eight plus character slots. A FTP member gets—you guessed it—two.
Another issue that creates an unfair balance in gameplay is the amount of in-game currency you may acquire—also known as the Resource Limit. Currently, a silver member may obtain 250G while a paying member will enjoy the ability to acquire around 250,000G. Is this an unfair advantage? I think so.
Ultimately what this boils down to is the reality that while Champions Online is a FTPMMOG, to really be competitive and enjoy this game to the fullest, you’ll have to become a paying member. Many games are funded through advertising and cash shops; Champions Online is betting that their FTP members will buckle with frustration and convert to a gold membership; it’s disappointing.
Now, Champions Online has been around the block. This thing has now gone from a solely pay-to-play game to now include a free-to-play version. We got that. So here’s what I want to know, where are all the maps? Where’s the depth? It’s an unfortunate truth, but once you progress to a certain point—and this may happen for some players earlier than others—you’re going to get bored. Cryptic really dropped the ball when they didn’t develop more in-depth gameplay or offer more maps. This FTP lacks considerable content.
Not So MMO
In a world of Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Champions Online is seemingly out of place. Champions Online plays more like a single player RPG and is reminiscent of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, then you’ll be right at home. But most of us play MMOs because they’re just that—Massively Multiplayer. This game doesn’t really allow for teamwork—even with your fellow Archetypes—and many MMO gamers will eventually find that the lonesome crime fighting gets old.
I will say that a slight balance has been struck in regards to Archetypes and FTP versus PTP players in the PvP modes. Champions Online has created an Archetype-only queue that allows only silver members to compete and thus, established a fair playing field. Cryptic claims that if you want a bigger challenge, you can visit their open queues and take on the gold members with their custom built characters. I personally think that this will simply frustrate most FTP players.
With the addition of Champions’ FTP version, Cryptic has added a significant amount of items to its cash shop. These items include health restoration, damage buffs, experience point multipliers, and even the ability to summon assistance in a fight by way of a henchman. Another purchasable option is one that allows your character to morph into a werewolf. Costumes may also be purchased in the cash shop. But really, who needs them with the selection already available?
While the cash shop items seem interesting, here we are again at the issue of fairness and balance. Many of the items available to silver members are complimentary to gold members. So, to sum it up, the cash shop is yet another Champions Online disappointment.
The Final Word
Alright, we’ve weighed the pros and the cons of Champions Online. Its graphics are clean and really colorful. Character creation is nothing short of amazing. This aspect of the game is definitely a plus. Game play is fun… to a point. Unfortunately, I have more complaints with this game than I do kudos.
We have the issue of gameplay depth. After awhile, levels seem repetitive and you’ll really lack incentive to continue. Also, with regard to the issue of lack, the maps lack in variety. With this game having been out for the length of time that it has, we’d expect that they would have added more maps at this point. The maps that currently exist really don’t require a change in strategy. Champions Online offers nothing to encourage end-game players to come back for more—that is, if you stick around long enough.
Finally, we have the issue of pay-to-play versus free-to-play. Do I think that this is simply a glorified demo? No. FTP players can play through Champions Online just like the paying players. The problem is that free-to-play players are at a distinct and unfair disadvantage which is reminiscent of playing with a bunch of wallet warriors. Basically, the paying members possess the cash shop advantage from the start.
Champions Online is worth a try. Ultimately this is my opinion and yours might be quite different. Also, as it stands, this is only one of a few MMOs of its genre. This would most likely explain the massive playerbase. And you know what they say—beggars, choosers…